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First Meeting with Recently Transitioned Cousin


MarkCT

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Hi All

 

This is my first, and in many was I hope my last, post on this forum but here goes and apologies in advance if it is a bit long winded but I think you’d need to know the full picture if you are going to give me any tips, which I do hope you will. 
 

Back in 1963 my mum’s family (her mum, dad and numerous much younger siblings) emigrated to Sydney as “£10 Pommes”. I was two years old at the time and we were due to join them the following year but for various reasons we didn’t go. My dad had no family apart from his parents, who died many years ago. So, it has always been important to me, my wife and our (now grown up) children to visit the family regularly.  
 

So now we get to the main point. I’ve always been saddened that, whilst everyone of my Aussie family have been so excited to see us when we visit there has always been one exception; a first cousin who was really nice but always seemed very standoffish and distant. You can imagine my surprise when she announced that she had transitioned! I’m not great at social media but my wife contacted her and they converse on and off, not a lot but as much as before she transitioned. 
 

But now with Covid out of the way 🤞we are planning our next trip so (as my cousin is not on the main family WhatsApp group) I wrote to her. I said we (my wife and I) were going to be in Sydney and Brisbane, where most of the family live, but that Ballarat really was going to be just too much of a stretch- especially as she is the only one who lives there. I was amazed and so happy when she immediately wrote back and said she’d make sure she came to see us (if you look at the map and at the cost of flights you’ll realise that is no small commitment). 
 

Now this may seem obvious to you but it is all totally new territory to me and my wife so we are worried about inadvertently saying something that might be hurtful.  so any tips would be most welcome. I have some particular questions:

 

In chatting do we always use feminine pronouns or do we use masculine when talking about the time before transition (ie our previous visits etc)?

 

Do we talk about his/her(? )wife, who has now gone her own way, although I suspect they are still friends? 
 

Do we steer well clear of discussing anything at all personal I’m thinking of both emotional and practical issues)? Or perhaps my wife could whereas I shouldn’t?

 

What do we do about our normal big family gatherings? We’d love her to be there but don’t obviously want to put any undue pressure. We do see on Facebook that some of the family are very kind and accepting but in the cases of a good many others we just don’t know. 


Thats just a few of the questions we have but any other comments or tips would be most welcome before we get on the plane from Heathrow at the end of the month. 
 

Thanks 😊 

 

Mark
 

 

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@MarkCT that's kind of you to reach out to this community to ask such questions. Just based on your willingness to learn and be supportive, I am sure you will succeed. 

 

My understanding is that your cousin transitioned male to female. In that case, she's always been "she". Because she was socialized as male, he/him pronouns had been used in the past. But now that she's discovered she's a woman, she should always be referred to as she (unless she tells you otherwise - some individuals use various pronouns for various reasons). If referring to her before transition, still use she/her, but if the context is important to what you're saying, you can specify "before she transitioned" - don't say "when she was he" or "before she became a woman" or "before she turned trans" or anything like that. Think of her as always having been female, but having worn a male mask for several years. Now, she's removed the mask and is her genuine self. 

 

If there's any doubt, just ask her what are her pronouns. She will probably be more appreciative of you asking rather than assuming.

 

If you slip and say the wrong thing, just apologize and correct yourself, then move on - don't linger on the mistake potentially making it more awkward and putting her in the position of consoling you. If you hear someone else use the wrong pronoun, be a good ally and correct them matter-of-factly. It sometimes takes practice to adapt to a person's new pronouns. There's a learning curve and it requires patience and compassion. 

 

As for her wife, treat that like anyone's ex-partner situation. If it's a given that they're still friends, no harm in mentioning her. If there's obvious tension, don't mention it unless she brings it up. But don't assume to refer to her as her ex's former "husband" as she may or may not be comfortable with that male-gendered title. It's safer to use gender neutral terms like partner or spouse until you know for sure how a person prefers to refer to themself. 

 

Likewise with personal stuff, just use etiquette you'd use with any other person. But, particularly with a trans individual, the details of her transition are her business only. For example, it's not appropriate to ask someone what meds they take, or what surgeries they've had or not had, etc. Don't treat her as exotic. Just chat with her like you would with anyone else. If she wants to share personal stuff, it's her choice. 

 

In big family gatherings, be a good ally and keep an eye on her if you're worried. If you notice she's uncomfortable in a conversation, interject and change the subject or use an excuse to take her away from it. You'll see it's more about common sense. 

 

Again, good on you for caring and asking. I hope you have a beautiful time with your family. 

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  • Admin

Mark, you did a good thing in joining this site; it shows you to be an ally and a thoughtful, caring person.

 

I can't think of a single thing that @Vidanjalididn't cover expertly.  I could not have said it better.  If you think of other questions, or wish to ask anything of anyone off line, once you have five posts you can PM anyone, but you don't have to wait to talk privately to any staff member here.  Good luck to you and your cousin.

 

Carolyn Marie

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  • Forum Moderator

Good questions Mark, and thank you for being a caring enough person to think about and prepare to meet your cousin. I know she will be very proud of you, when you handle the meeting with love and respect.

 

Mindy🐛🏳️‍⚧️🦋

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Thank you, Mark. Great questions. And thank you, Vidanjali, for explaining things so wonderfully. I would just like to add that, since not all of us can transition, maybe saying "before she came out" would be best? Just a thought 🥰.

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  • Forum Moderator

@MarkCT It’s a pleasure to have you here even if you’re not planning on becoming a regular here on our forum. Understanding how to react in social situations like these can be difficult if it’s new to you.

 

As others have mentioned, @Vidanjali covered it thoroughly. Use that post as a guide and you’ll be just fine. I’ll only add that if you can relax and try to be their ally during your time together, they’ll remember the effort for a very long time. Have fun and enjoy the gathering.

 

Susan R🌷

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Thank you all so much for taking the time to help me and my wife with this fantastic advice and kind words. It all makes so much sense and to know you ‘experts’ feel the same is most reassuring. I must say that we are both very excited about seeing my cousin for the first time without her mask. We’ve always been saddened by past standoffishness and now keep thinking is that all it was? If only we’d known!  Such a waste of opportunities for good times and friendship but at least the future looks much more rosey 😊

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